Tuesday, July 24, 2012

July 24 - Why I'm fasting ... starting tomorrow

Declare a holy fast;


Summon the elders

and all who live in the land

to the house of the Lord your God,

and cry out to the Lord.

Joel 1:14


A solemn assembly has been declared in Charlotte. Have you ever heard of one of those?


Let me introduce the concept with recent reflections from Billy Graham. This aging preacher doesn’t speak often nowadays. Therefore, it’s worth paying attention when he does …


The bad news: “My heart aches for America and it’s deceived people,” he says, as he references a Dark Knight massacre, further silencings of public prayer, and “the terrible downward spiral of our nation’s moral standards.”


The good news: Well, it’s not just good news, he says! “The wonderful news is that our Lord is a God of mercy.”


The conditions, then, for God’s abundant mercy: The great old preacher continues his previous sentence on mercy, saying, “… and [our Lord] responds to repentance.”


Repentance is always the first and necessary precondition for mercy and restoration. Based on today’s lesson and yesterday’s, here are several more devotional practices that lead the hope and healing for a nation …


The Lord says, in 2 Chronicles 7:14, if my people who are called by my name …

·         humble themselves,

·         and pray

·         and seek my face,

·         and turn from their wicked ways [which is repentance again],

then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” The Lord adds a few more preconditions in Joel 1:14, at a similar time of national distress, saying,

·         “Declare a holy fast;

·         call a solemn assembly.

·         Summon the elders and all who live in the land to the house of the Lord your God,

·         and cry out to the Lord [which is prayer again].”


Thus a solemn assembly is being called in Charlotte. It’s purpose is humbleness, prayer, and seeking God’s face.


And to prepare myself, I am starting a forty day fast tomorrow in preparation for the September 2 event. (I’m not sure of the complete details of my fast other than it will involve a curtailing – not elimination – of food and of television. I’ll tell you more on Sunday.)


For more information, watch the video at



In Christ’s Love,

a guy who wants to be

hungrier for God

than for food









Monday, July 23, 2012

July 23 - The Dark Night Rises - reflections on Aurora

The Dark Night Rises

The murderer rises in the dark …
Job 24:14

Surely you’ve heard about the massacre at a Colorado premiere of The Dark Knight Rises. The headline in my newspaper this morning reads, “The Search for ‘Why?’”

I can tell you why.

And I can tell you why most in our culture will answer this question incorrectly.

Let me start with a story ... Batman is my favorite superhero. In the seventies, I grew up watching reruns of the campy sixties version of the Caped Crusader. Now, it may sound strange, but crime dramas and mysteries have traditionally expressed a Christian Worldview.

Really? Think about it … The setting is good versus evil. The plot is a passionate pursuit of truth (by the main character, a detective).  And while the story starts with sin and violence (a biblical given), the whole point is the restoration of justice and order (a biblical goal).

We used to call our comic book characters “super” and “heroes.” In my Batman of old, the violence was even cartoonish and implied. I know it seems hokey by today’s standards, but rather than showing a punch land, the comic-book word “Pow!” would flash across the screen.

“Hokey?” Maybe. But what are today’s standards? It is an increasingly graphic portrayal of violence.

Conflicting reports say this weekend’s shooter was dressed as the villain from the last Batman movie. “The Joker” from 2008’s Dark Night was perhaps the most evil character ever portrayed on screen. A good actor is supposed to “inhabit the character” he’s portraying. It is said, that just the opposite happened with actor Heath Ledger.

Did the sickness of the Joker so thoroughly inhabit a young actor that it led to his overdose and death at age 28?

Did the sickness of the Joker so thoroughly inhabit another young man that he shot 58 at the next Batman premiere?


Here’s the problem with the question of “Why?” … Most will focus on what went wrong in one young man’s life to prompt such cruelty. Yes, some sadistic switch flipped in one young brain, but that’s not really the problem. The real problem keeps coursing – daily and increasingly – throughout our culture.

This problem is worse than the over-abundance of violence on our television and movie screens.  It’s worse even than constantly desensitizing our children to shooting human beings in their video games. The problem is that we’ve completely pulled the carpet out from under our children and our society.

While it sounds compassionate in our post-modern world to teach our kids to be sensitive to each individual’s and each culture’s diversity, what we’re really doing is teaching them that there is no ultimate right and wrong. And that’s just plain wrong.

If there is a God, then there is a Truth – one truth. Indeed, that is the reason that America’s collective heart is breaking over this movie theater massacre. Deep down – and created in God’s image – we yearn for Truth and justice and “heroes” that are “super.”

And yet at the same time, hundreds of millions of dollars will be spent this week on a complex and brooding comic book character that was the backdrop for these murders.


Thousands of years ago, a man named Job was fond of that question too. In a section entitled, “Job Complains of Violence on the Earth,” this grieving old man cried …

"1 Why are … 13 those …
who rebel against the light,
who are not acquainted with its ways,
and do not stay in its paths[?]
14 The murderer RISES in the DARK,
that he may kill the poor and needy;
and in the NIGHT he is as a thief.
15 The eye of the adulterer
also waits for the twilight,
saying, 'No eye will see me' …
Job 24

It’s an age-old question. But there is an age-old answer too. In 2 Chronicles 7:14, the Lord says to his people …

if my people who are called by my name
humble themselves,

and pray

and seek my face,

and turn from their wicked ways,

then I will hear from heaven,
and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

The movie at the center of this tragedy is The Dark Knight Rises. It’s a play on words, but let us pray …

·         that The Dark Night Ceases to Rise across our nation and throughout this culture;

·         that Americans – starting with us and for our children’s sake – will start to pay only for movies where the heroes are more super than dark, brooding, and violent;

·         that Americans – starting with us and for our children’s sake – will stop desensitizing our souls with video games in which we even figuratively shoot at human beings;

·         that Christians – starting with us and for our children’s sake – will testify to the true Truth, instead of permitting the continued encroachment of relativism and ambiguity;

·         that we as a nation – starting with us and for our children’s sake – will follow the call of 2 Chronicles 7:14.

In Christ’s Love,
a Pastor who prays
for our land to be healed

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Daily Devotions are on vacation until the fall.
Enjoy the rest of your summer.

Monday, July 2, 2012

July 4 - Hope

the propitious (i.e. favorable) smiles of Heaven
can never be expected on a nation
that disregards the eternal rules of order and right
which Heaven itself has ordained
George Washington

Sunday’s sermon sparked a lot of conversation. Good!

The saddest comment came from a 12-year-old who said, “I’ve never known a time when God has smiled upon our nation.” Think about it! In his memory, what has life in America looked like?

·         All his life has been lived in the shadow of twin towers toppling and terrorism.
·         As a nation he’s only seen America constantly in war.
·         His view of American politics has been increasingly polarizing and partisan – not to mention the age old and ongoing problems of scandals and corruption.
·         Our young people see a country that’s utterly divided – left and right, red and blue, white and brown, richer and poorer, Christian and secular.
·         About all they’ve known of America is economic upheaval. In their neighborhoods (if not their own homes) they see job losses, foreclosures, lack of insurance, and the resulting worry, stress, and fear.  
·         Their experience of American families is filled with too many broken families.
·         Their experience of American culture is crass, course, sexually charged, and devoid of innocence.
·         Their glimpses of America have too much violence, abuse, and human-trafficking.
·         They see all around them self-centeredness, materialism, drug use, and depression.

So where’s the hope?

Look in the mirror.

Now … that’s an intentional overstatement. We must look, of course, to God! But look at the words in that list above. What do you think God thinks about constant war, utter division, self-centeredness, crassness, materialism, teen pregnancies, rampant secularism, and way too many broken families?

Let’s ask that another way: What did God repeatedly say to Israel when they were off track? Turn, return, and repent! That was Jesus’ first sermon too: “The time has come! … Repent and believe” (Mark 1:15).

I pray, therefore, for revival. I’ve told you that before. I’d love to see a national revival. Indeed, America has historically been known for its Great Awakenings. And with constant war, utter division, self-centeredness, materialism, and broken families, we definitely need revival.

But where does it start? Look in the mirror. If you’re one who wants a better future for our kids, grandkids, and nation, then I invite your prayer to be: “Revival, Lord! Me first, then our church, then our nation.” It’s like ripples in a pond, but it starts with looking in the mirror and praying, “Lord, me first!”

That’s our goal at Spirit of Joy for the next several months. We want to partner with one another to enliven faith. Please see the final two P.S.’s at the end of this letter, but I invite you to invest in hope through …

·         Prayer: Spurred by our Deeper Life Conference, Spirit of Joy is focusing on prayer -- indeed, power praying -- in the Summer of 2012. Prayer is a living connection to our living God.
·         Passion: For the Fall of 2012, we are working on several studies and initiatives, to partner with you to ignite deeper faith and passion. Undergirded by prayer, we will invite every member to join a Discipleship Study.
·         Purpose: Do you want your life to count for more? Do you want to change the future for our kids, grandkids, and nation? Faith ignited, let’s inspire one another to reach out even more fully. The goal for 2013 is to joyfully make a bigger difference in life together!

In Christ’s Love,
Pastor Ed

Sunday, July 1, 2012

July 1 - Who are the Best Evangelists?

Who are the best evangelists?

Then the woman left her water jar
and went back to the city.
She said to the people,
"Come and see a man who told me
everything I have ever done!
He cannot be the Messiah, can he?"
Many Samaritans from that city believed in him
because of the woman's testimony …
John 4:28,29,39

The deadly enemy of the church is the plateau.

In the journey of faith, mountain climbing is exhilarating, and mountain tops are joy. In the journey of life, dark valleys often prompt us draw closer to God in prayer. However, the plateau – which is a normal place – is a deadly enemy. We’re neither up nor down. We’re neither hot nor cold. We’re not growing or changing or evolving. We’re just sitting there. In fact, too many Christians sit in neutral for a very long time.

In a hungry world, people’s attention is naturally drawn to movement and change. A downward tumble draws the world’s focus, and Christians can witness as we cling to hope in the midst of the valley of the shadow of death.

Upward elation can also draw attention! (Although too much passion can often push away as many as it draws in.)

But who are generally the best evangelists? It’s new Christians. Why? It’s not because they know all the answers. It’s because a dying world sees the joyful movement, the purposeful change, and a desirable transformation. Like the woman at the well in our lesson for today, our passion, joy, and purpose makes others curious.

So … you’re not a new Christian, you say. How can you be more effective at evangelism. Get off the plateau! Don’t settle for comfortable and mediocre! Whenever you notice you’re stagnant and stuck, change something for the better!

And remember the motivation … it’s not’s just for you. It’s for our neighbors in a dying world. Our faith needs to rub off on them.

In Christ’s Love,
a guy who’s buying
climbing gear